Seasonal Changes Can Cause Disruption in Your Loved One’s Life
Changes naturally occur throughout the seasons. From summer and hot weather to the colder holiday time peppered with family gatherings, the seasons can indeed have a major effect on your loved one’s life, particularly as it pertains to home health care in Santa Clara and elsewhere. Seasonal changes also bring about practical considerations, too, such as having enough warm indoor and outdoor clothing on hand. For seniors living on their own, seasonal home maintenance chores often get to be too much to handle alone. They may need help in the home and in the yard, but these chores comprise just one issue facing seniors as the weather begins to change.
Seniors are at a higher risk of decreased quality of life due to social and physical changes they experience as the seasons switch. These issues must be addressed just as completely as the practical household maintenance issues do, to ensure your loved one continues to live a happy, fulfilled life in their own homes for as long as they can.
Seasonal Changes and Alzheimer’s
The cognitive ability of people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease can change depending on the season, according to studies outlined on WebMD. In fact, these seniors fare better in the late summer and early fall than in the winter and spring. Improvements in cognitive skills in the fall and summer were found to be equivalent to five years less in age-related declines when it comes to thinking ability. The seasonal differences remain even after factors such as sleep, depression, physical activity, and thyroid issues were considered.
In the winter, changes in weather are prevalent, of course, but this also signals the holiday season is upon us. This is when schedules get busier and stress levels skyrocket. We all feel this stress and realize we just need a few more hours in the day to get things done, but in fact, seniors feel this change the most. Their loved ones don’t have as much time to visit, for one. For another, they are facing different atmospheres that come with busy events like holiday parties and dinners. Add to that the possibility that many seniors in-home care and end of life care still won’t be able to safely visit in person with their families due to the pandemic. This is all very isolating and scary for seniors.
If your loved one has Alzheimer’s or dementia, this time of year — winter and holidays — can be particularly difficult. There’s less daylight and cooler weather, and holiday parties and visitors increase irritation and confusion.
The onset of daylight savings time and winter itself can have a huge impact on people with Alzheimer’s. If they have early-to-mid stage Alzheimer’s, they likely go through sundowning, characterized by increased confusion and agitation later in the afternoon. The shorter days aren’t helping, either, as the decreased sunlight can affect their bodies’ circadian rhythms, making it harder to adjust to the change.
Disruptions in routine also have been known to increase confusion among sufferers of Alzheimer’s. On top of the time change affecting routines and daily schedules, visiting family members and holiday gatherings can throw their normal habits way off balance.
Social Changes in Isolated Seniors
Seniors who are normally socially active outside their homes in the warm summer months may feel like they are trapped in their home once the bad weather hits. Activities such as walking around the block or walking downstairs to get into the car can suddenly seem like daunting tasks. Visiting friends or relatives doesn’t happen as frequently because everyone’s busy with the holidays, or discouraged to visit in person due to COVID-19. As a friend or loved one of a senior, it’s critical to be aware of the importance of social interaction so they stay engaged, as well as mentally and physically alert.
While more prevalent in the Northeast than the West Coast, colder seasons anywhere in the country can make seniors feel depressed or sedentary. The NIH says this is due to a slower metabolic rate in seniors, causing them to lose their body heat faster than a young person would, particularly if they have other health issues like arthritis, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, or thyroid problems.
There are also lessening opportunities for exercise as seasons change. Inclement weather prevents many seniors in-home care from leaving their houses, with the chillier weather making them less inclined to exercise indoors. But regular exercise is still important, as it gets the heart pumping and helps with balance, which prevents falls. Exercise also works to prevent disease and boost cognitive function.
Nutritional changes in winter also may have an adverse effect on health. Seniors who are homebound often experience decreased levels of vitamin D due to less sun exposure from being outdoors. Vitamin D shortages can cause cognitive deficiencies in the elderly, contributing to cardiovascular disease. Getting enough Vitamin C helps prevent chronic diseases in seniors.
Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice
If seasonal changes are affecting your senior and you have questions about our home health or hospice services, contact us at 888-978-1306.